Fictional Characters, Mythical Objects, and the Phenomenon of Inadvertent Creation

Res Philosophica 93 (2):1-23 (2016)
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My goal is to reflect on the phenomenon of inadvertent creation and argue that—various objections to the contrary—it doesn’t undermine the view that fictional characters are abstract artifacts. My starting point is a recent challenge by Jeffrey Goodman that is originally posed for those who hold that fictional characters and mythical objects alike are abstract artifacts. The challenge: if we think that astronomers like Le Verrier, in mistakenly hypothesizing the planet Vulcan, inadvertently created an abstract artifact, then the “inadvertent creation” element turns out to be inescapable yet theoretically unattractive. Based on considerations about actually existing concrete objects featured in fictional works (as Napoleon is in Tolstoy’s War and Peace), I argue that independently of one’s stand on mythical objects, admitting fictional characters as abstract artifacts is enough to give rise to the challenge at hand; yet this very point serves to undermine the challenge, indicating that inadvertent creation is not nearly as worrisome as Goodman suggests. Indeed, the inadvertent creation phenomenon’s generality extends far beyond objects of fiction and myth, and I will use this observation to counter a further objection. Taking fictional characters (and mythical objects) to be abstract artifacts therefore remains a viable option.



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Zsofia Zvolenszky
Eotvos Lorand University of Sciences

Citations of this work

Abstract Generationism: A Response to Friedell.Wesley D. Cray - 2017 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 75 (3):289-292.
Creating abstract objects.David Friedell - 2021 - Philosophy Compass 16 (10):e12783.

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Reference and Existence: The John Locke Lectures.Saul A. Kripke - 2013 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Fiction and Metaphysics.Amie L. Thomasson - 1998 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
The Causal Theory of Names.Gareth Evans - 1973 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 47 (1):187–208.
Nonexistence.Nathan Salmon - 1998 - Noûs 32 (3):277-319.

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